Deceitful figures

Posted Category: Experiences, Letters


I was angered by the deceitful figures released by those who promote the renewables industry on the TV news and in various newspapers at the end of last week. I beg that the reader take these figures with a pinch of salt because power from wind and water is as variable as the weather so such figures should never be looked at in isolation, only as part of the big picture or a calculation of long-term averages. These people are either being deceitful or need to study basic statistical analysis; I suspect the former.

Firstly, they say that wind output rose by 20% when one period this year is compared to the same period last year. This is just cherry-picking; did they announce in the summer that wind output FELL by 52% despite 3% more turbines being operational when comparing the second quarter of this year with the first?

Secondly, they say that hydro output rose by 50%. I will now show the truth here. In 2009 UK hydro output was 5240 GWh (gigawatt hours), it had an all-time record fall to 3575 GWh in 2010 due to low rainfall, then rose back to 5690 GWh in 2011 (in other words by 59%). But this rise is indicative of a bad situation (that so much output was lost the year before), not a good one. This is a similar situation to what happened with the hydro figure released last week. I wonder was there a press release in 2012 saying that “Hydro output rose by 59%”.

I know it is hard to believe, but UK hydro output has had no upward trend since 2002 despite 500 new hydro schemes, costing hundreds of millions and paid for from your bills. This is due to new legislation that year giving new subsides which had the effect of hydro schemes being optimised for cash flow at the expense of  focusing on electrical generation. My data can be checked on the DECC statistics website.


On 4 November 2014 I phoned a certain office bearer at RenewableUK to get a response to an email which I’d sent but he’d ignored. It wasn’t an anti-wind farm email per se, it was to ask why they weren’t campaigning for more schemes in the SE of England, so they could share the “benefits”. He apologised and requested that I send it again so he could look at it. I said there was no need as it was short and simple. I explained I had irrefutable and corroborating evidence that far from building the majority of schemes in Scotland, they should be going into the Home Counties, where they would perform as well as Scottish schemes, with the additional benefits of fewer grid upgrades and transmission losses.  And from the Midlands south they use 62% of the electricity. But with his lie after lie I wasn’t going to say nothing and accept them. This person is Bad with a capital B. Other disputes I’ve had at wind farm expos were nothing compared to this; he kept interrupting with his rehearsed pre-scripted responses and clichés; perhaps by the end he feared I was setting him up and recording it. It started cordially enough. I paraphrase. The parts where I’m speaking are in italics.

Each scheme is judged on it’s own merits. Your scheme in the South East was obviously in a place with a good wind resource. Others were rejected because eg. they were on a bird migration route.

Scotland has wildlife too, this doesn’t explain why there are maybe 100 schemes in Scotland but just 1 in the SE of England.

Each scheme is judged on it’s own merits. The Scottish Hills have good wind resources. The Tories say that if they get in power they’re going to ban onshore turbines.

Conspiracy theorists would say it’s because rich and influential people who work in London and commute from their Surrey villas don’t want these things blighting their lives.

You’re being cynical now. We’re pushing for a big expansion in the UK supply chain including UK turbine factories.

And by 2020 all the schemes in the north of Scotland will necessitate huge constraint because of slow grid upgrade.

This obviously isn’t ideal; we want to utilise every bit of energy. The grid used to be upgraded first but this meant connecting to nothing so it was changed to build wind farms first and the grid will catch up.

The grid will never catch up if they don’t stop building schemes.

We’re starting to put more and more offshore.

Offshore schemes get constraint too. Talking of offshore I just read about E Anglia One and it’s 5 extensions totalling 7200MW. If it were to be generating say 2000MW and the wind died, as I’ve experienced, it would be like 2 major gas plants coming offline.

Wind increases grid stability.

No it doesn’t.

Yes it does.

Let’s move on!

Didcot B caught fire the other week and went offline. National Grid assure us that their forecasts are accurate and that they have contingencies in place.

National Grid are not being honest because they’re scared of losing their jobs and pensions.

You’re being cynical.

Gas is different; major plants tripping out is quite rare and it’s been happening for decades and the Grid are well used to dealing with it. Wind is totally different as by 2020 you could have up to 29GW coming offline over hours across the UK. The whole gas fleet never goes all at the same time but it could happen with Wind over hours. And National Grid launched a document last week stating that that the margin this winter at peak consumption is only 4.1% which is about 3GW, dropping to half of that next winter.

But there’d be wind somewhere across the UK.

Not true, do you remember that 3 week low wind event across the UK in early September?

I’m not aware of it.

7,700 MW of metered wind fell as low as 109 MW at it’s lowest point which is about 1% of capacity and averaged only 633 MW for 3 weeks.

Those figures are not true. The UK Wind fleet does not drop to 1%. I don’t recognise that figure.

Check it yourself; you can download the last 3 months data for all power technologies from BMRS which is used by National Grid, and you’re telling me that you rely on National Grid so it must be true.

I don’t recognise that figure.

The main problem with Wind is that often there’s too little and often there’s too much. Your side are claiming that there are storage solutions to solve this. Have you heard of Cruachan pumped storage scheme?


Cruachan can store about 10 GWh. How many Cruachans do you think it would require to fill in the gap left by Wind if we had only 5% of capacity on average generated from Wind over 3 weeks with 29 GW of Wind total capacity in a future 2020 scenario with all schemes in planning and consented that are likely to become operational?

I’m not going to answer that. We have a portfolio of renewable technologies which will fill the gap; like hydro and tidal.

Hydro provides just 1.5% of UK generation; tidal is years away from any significant deployment and provides nothing 4 times a day; there’s no way these can fill in for vast quantities of Wind energy going missing. Just guess a ball-park figure.

I’m not making a guess.

The answer is about 180. But your side never mention how you’d recharge these storage units afterwards as presumably the existing Wind fleet would be powering people’s homes and factories. And in addition to the subsides we’re paying for generating renewables, we’d need to pay an extra one to store the energy.

Never say never. We’re developing a range of storage technologies. I think batteries are the way ahead but there are others like conversion to hydrogen. There’s a game-changer coming.

Presumably pumped storage is the one which is most proposed because it’s the cheapest and most practicable one. The other main one, conversion to hydrogen, was invented decades ago. There’s a reason it’s never been deployed on a UK scale; it’s too expensive and has major problems in utilisation. Electrolysis plants are very expensive and only make sense if they’re running all the time, not waiting for an excess of Wind. Mass storage for Wind is unworkable, unaffordable. The cost would result in poorer people basically unable to afford electricity. Even if it were affordable, the supply chain could never deliver it; there aren’t enough engineers or rare earth metals etc, especially if it was tried globally.

Fossil fuel’s going to run out some time so we might as well start now.

I don’t get any of my data from anti-wind farm web sites; it all comes from your side of the fence.[here his tone changed]

Are you from an anti-wind farm organisation?

No, I’m a truth campaigner.

A “truth campaigner”. I don’t like where this conversation is going. I want this phone conversation to end now. You’re being aggressive.

I had 4 letters in the press in the last 2 months.

I don’t like the tone of this conversation; a minute ago you asked me if I’d heard of Alex Salmond [he hadn’t heard of SSE or Cruachan]. I want this to end.

OK we’ll finish there. Thanks for your time.


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